Monthly Archives: October 2012

Questions, questions, questions

This weekend Terry visited Suzhou (she will tell you about her big action there!) and I visited Shanghai. I wandered around for a couple of days, had the best milkshake (banana based) of my life for lunch at the Burger Bistro and then went back that night for the best burger (The Cuban Habanero) of my life! Had another fabulous Hunan meal at Lost Horizon. Got ripped off for a really bad breakfast at a really great hotel. (yadda, yadda, yadda)

Okay, now on to the main event. On Sunday we caught the subway out to Lake Melien (a one hour ride) and the BMW Masters Golf Tournament at Lake Malaren. First some background. To get the tickets (they were free), all you had to do was register online. Then a personal representative called you back to ask you the same questions they asked online – including “Are you planning on buying a BMW?” Maybe we would have got VIP tickets if we had said yes? Anyway, they delivered the tickets to our apartment so we were set to go.

Question #1 – Why are rich Chinese developers building huge, heavy 18th Century-like French Chateau looking mansions which all look the same in a subdivision? And why do these same developers create massive (10-15 feet high) brown rockish looking “boulders” as the wall around the subdivision? (these two questions pertain to the view as one drives up to the Crowne Plaza resort and to the mostly empty homes on the course.)

Question #2 – Do the Chinese have proof that God is black?

Question #3 – At a golf tournament which handles large numbers of people in the gallery (I don’t know how to estimate numbers, but I would suggest there were likely 5000 there on Sunday), why would there be only one (1) (一 in Chinese) food service tent on the grounds and why would it only be about 25 feet by 25 feet? And why would it be just inside the front gate with the other tents aimed only at selling golf holidays, Ballentine’s (blended) scotch and Stella Artois beer?

Question #3a – Why was there no no place on the course to access water (unless, like I did, you stole two bottles of water from the deserted driving range)?

Question #4 – The national pass time in China is, to the best of our knowledge, clothes shopping. Knowing this, why was there no attempt to capitalize on this by having souvenir clothing – hats, shirts, jackets etc. with the really cool logo on them available? Was it because Hugo Boss and BMW had small shops selling their own branded clothing?

Question #5 – Why, if you are going to have grandma look after the under 5 year old children at the golf course, don’t you just leave them all at home? It is a golf tournament – not a family picnic in the park! That way, the yelling, crying children won’t throw Ross Fisher (granted, he still hit it) off at the top of his back swing. Really, strollers? Do you think the kid got motivated to pick up a golf club when you got home?

Question #6 – I know girls all over the world go to sporting events to meet guys, but are spikes (the 4″ high type, not the golf type) really the appropriate footwear? And don’t you already have a guy?  (Don’t worry about the 8″ – 9″ skirts – clearly you weren’t planning on sit on the grass anyway.)

Come on, my skirt is longer than most!

Question #7 – If you really want the crowd to be quiet when the golfers are hitting the ball, why do you have 15 – 18 year old girls holding the “Quiet” signs – if they aren’t talking to one another, or running back and forth from one side of the green to the other or talking on THEIR cell phone, they’re sleeping while Ian Poulter is putting. I know, I know – they looked cute in their Boss hat and top and Loud Mouth pants, but come on, do your job. And don’t get me (or Peter Hanson or George Coetzee) started on the phones…

Maybe she thinks if she sleeps, people will be quiet – God knows holding up the sign at her feet wasn’t working.

Question #8 – Do people actually recycle lighters?

Isn’t golf an affluent game?

(Ed. note: To be fair, on the way in, there were some lighters in it and people were checking the levels of the fluid in them.)

Question #9 – And finally, why can’t I swing like one of these guys?

(Ed. note – for best viewing, click on the small arrows bottom right and turn on your speakers)


(Ed. note: for more photos of your favourite golfers, check out “Our Photos”)

On the road again

Hi all. Well, this weekend we are on the road again. Terry is off to a principal’s conference just outside of Suzhou (about an hour from here) and I am off to wander the streets of Shanghai. Saturday, Terry will join me in Shanghai and on Sunday we are going to the BMW Masters Golf Tournament. Should be good. I will be in black shorts and a bright orange Pitt Meadows golf shirt- watch for us. If it is like a lot of other golf tournaments over here, there aren’t usually the numbers of people attending like there is in the US. We’ll try and get in front of a camera.
Anyway, before we take off for the weekend, I thought I would share some photos I have taken “on the road” in Jiaxing, as I make my daily treks.

Photo 1 – Just outside our door and the elevator is this one. Although the inside of our apartment is fine, it is a bit disconcerting to see this each time you step off the elevator. We think it is caused by the humidity during the summer. It is not unusual in buildings around here. It is hard to see the bubbling plaster, but I don’t think the black is mold….

Humidity? What Humidity?

Photo 2 – This is one method of transportation which apparently hasn’t caught on yet, since this is the only one I have seen in all my travels here. Perhaps, if I can’t have a scooter, I could get one of these.

Photo 3 – We have two entrances/exits to our complex. Each of them is staffed at any given time with 3-4 guards. Their job, as far as I can tell is to say hello and raise and lower the gate.

We stand on guard for thee

Photo 4 – On Tuesday  Terry had the day off and we wandered around. This fellow was very friendly – trying to sell his wares to anyone – us, passing pedestrians, restaurants, whoever  – until I went to take his photo – then it was “No No”. Unfortunately, I had already taken it and couldn’t delete it. So sorry.

Fresh Duck, Live Pheasant

Photo 5 – Okay, so this doesn’t look like much, but I took it almost for what it doesn’t show. These two buses are both the K97 bus which runs basically from our house to the train station – about a 40 minute ride. Now, seeing two is not unusual, but more often than not, there are three, four or even five – all the K97. Think about it, if they have a schedule to keep, so that if you want to be picked up somewhere on the route, how can they all be sitting here at once? I can only surmise that there really is no schedule. Sometimes you see the driver lying in the aisle of his bus, having a nap!

K97

Photo 6 – This is typical of the sidewalks in Jaixing. In the middle is a section of about 16″ which is a different texture or brick. We are told that it is to help the visually impaired individuals (although I have yet to see one) negotiate. This is fine until they get to, say a large 3 foot square planter which has been put right in the middle of their walk way. Yes, it happens.

Help for the Visually Impaired

Photo 7 – One wouldn’t want to use a large corner display window to focus on a few specific items. It is far better to just pack it with a massive number of products, don’t you think?

Now there’s a display window

Photo 8 – In Jaixing, and I assume elsewhere, when large construction projects go on, the workers are housed on site in these blue “dormitories”. They are kind of like portables at schools in that once the project is finished they are moved to other sites. This one however wasn’t moved. It is right under a major bridge across the Jiaxing River (that is the bridge deck just above the roof). People are actually living here – you can see the satellite dish and the laundry hanging out and I saw a woman going in. I can’t imagine the darkness and the noise.

“Our House is a very, very, very nice house  – with two cats in the yard and a bridge on the roof”

Photo 9 – And finally, I don’t know a lot about construction (okay, I know nothing), but I do think that if anyone wants this building finished before it falls down, they will need more than two people working on it. That is all there were – and one of them was doing some kind of washing. The other day I saw three people on the beams at the top. Construction is very eerie here. Rarely do you hear noise from a site – you assume something is going on because the entrances to the sites are open and you can see a few people there but compared to what you hear at home, it is like a tomb. I had more noise in my classrooms than here on a job site.

Building a Highrise

Sports Meeting

Sports Meeting Costumes

Just finished a two-day sports day at Jiaxing High School.  If we had been wondering if our kids understood the concept of costumes, it was put to rest yesterday where there were costumes galore.  The opening ceremony involved every class in the school walking the track and stopping in front of the judges to demonstrate their school and class spirit.  Costumes ranged from Winnie the Pooh to peasants tilling the fields.  Sometimes there was  a clear theme, other times not, but each group did some variation of song and dance, dressed up or not, then moved away for the next division.  I was a judge, a process that was not exactly scientific.  There was no rubric, just categories, and with around 33 divisions, it was pretty difficult to discern one from another.  However, I was able to tell that the BC offshore class was one of the best!  Their theme reflected not only a British influence but also “The Art of War”, a book that was written by and also resonates with the Chinese.  I  particularly enjoyed the senior group who portrayed the workers in communist China, whose work is recognized as being so important to the country.  Their portrayal included street sweepers, brick layers,  peasant farmers and others who do lowly but important jobs.  They captured the essence of the school motto, “Truth”, and displayed strong school spirit.  I gave them the highest marks and hope that they are number 1 when the winners are announced on Wednesday morning.

After their performance,  each class then skirted the track and lined up on the field facing the podium, where they stood to watch and cheer the remaining student groups.  Next came the exercise competition. (Ed. Note: Each morning the whole school goes out on the field to do exercises – I guess in anticipation of this competition. I will say that perhaps this leads to the serious lack of obesity in China. This video is 1/3 of the school – there were two more groups just like this).

Thankfully I was not required to judge this one as it was impossible to discern differences in the 10-12 lines of costumed kids performing the routine they do each morning.  Still, fascinating to watch and reflect on the high degree of organization on display.  It was so hot by this time I changed into some short jeans and headed into the gym to judge the dance competition.  Again, almost every class had either purchased or rented costumes or identical garments for this event.  We saw everything from multi-coloured T-shirts to sparkly gowns (think Dancing With the Stars); one group even had the girls dress in white bride-like gowns with the boys in black suits.  The line-dance routines they did were very simple and repetitive but most groups were able to embellish in some way that made their team stand out.  One strong impression:  very intent faces throughout the dance numbers but when they were over, everyone broke into big smiles! (Ed. note: see photo for some examples – Terry commented that likely you wouldn’t get too many (if any) high school boys in the yellow outfits at home…)

Today, the weather changed from hot to rainy, windy and cold.  Day two of  Sports Meeting went on, however.  Morning activities focused on the indoor pursuits of badminton and table tennis. As we know, the Chinese shine in these sports–very much fun to watch.  Two of our girls volunteered to play table tennis and were ridiculously outmatched by fabulous players.  Both of the exceptional competitors were gracious enough to allow our girls to return a few serves before blasting them with bullets that left our girls giggling in embarrassment.  They were good sports and the boys were great about cheering on their friends.  Later, I watched the boys’ 200metre runs as well as relays.  I am reasonably sure that my legs have never moved that fast!  Oh, to be young again!  Principal Xu wisely made the decision to postpone the award ceremony until Wednesday morning during exercise time, as the weather was not nice at all.  David tells me that the hot weather in October is the anomaly, not the wind and rain, so I guess we’ve been lucky all month.

Because we spent Sunday at school, the kids were all sent home this afternoon and will return on Wednesday, so no work for the staff tomorrow.  We are enjoying our evening, knowing we can sleep in.  Geoff is preparing a chicken dinner and is cooking lotus root with hot peppers and green onions as a side dish. Fyi, we are into our second bag of rice since we got here and have had potatoes only once or twice.  We do have pasta every other week or so–it’s such a comfort food.  We can’t find canned clams to make my favorite but make a mean tuna-olive-pesto-hot sauce!

Tonight we are catching up with “Damages,” a TV drama/thriller that is so intense, we love it.  If we want to watch anything, we have to buy series as there is one English channel, with news only.  The result:  we watch less often and only what we select, without commercials.  It’s perfect, really.  Between cards, reading, writing and a weekly episode of “Survivor” our evenings pass.

WINNERS!! WINNERS!!

Well, the contest deadline has come and gone and we have winners. Congratulations to Kelly – the Self-rotation beans fishing is a restaurant in our neighbourhood – one which we are unlikely to try. There was a tie for the most creative business explanation. Congratulations Wendy and Lois. See the comments for their explanations. The lucky winners will be contacted directly with directions on how to collect their prizes. (Really). Watch for another contest in the coming days, weeks or months.

Busted!

Every so often, the school gives all the staff a gift.  Opening week, we received two 10 lb. boxes of grapes, one each.  Since Geoff doesn’t each much fruit, I knew there was no way we could do justice to them, so we kept enough for ourselves, then took the rest down to the Mah Jong players who inhabit our lobby every weekday from 1-4.  They were confused but delighted; the grapes went to good homes.  At the end of the month, for the Moon Festival, staff were again given a gift, this time two packages each of moon cakes; for us, this meant 32 moon cakes (see Moon Cakes).  Needless to say, we gave half to the Mah Jong crowd.  This week, we received a gift of pomelos.  We are not sure why, since there is no event on the calendar to celebrate, but just the same, it was very nice.  Once again, we each got a box of 6.  See the attached picture.  You will note that each pomelo is roughly the size of a child’s Terry’s head.  They are a citrus fruit that is grapefruit-like, but not as juicy or tart.  Citrus is my favorite but even I can only eat a slice a day.  A 1.5″ slice is the equivalent of a single whole grapefruit at home.  We were thinking once again that perhaps we would share with the Mah Jong crowd, but at school the next day, Mr. Zhao, the Vice-Principal said to me, “The Mah Jong players tell me that you have shared your grapes and moon cakes with them.”  How could I have forgotten that we live in the same building?!   I stammered something about there being too much for us and that we were going on holidays when we got the moon cakes, but talk about embarrassing!  So now we have 12 gigantic pomelos to eat.  On Friday, I told Daisy the story and asked her to please tell whomever is in charge of the gifts that we love getting them but please, one box of anything is enough.

The actual boat where the Chinese Communist Manifesto was signed. Quite cool and in immaculate condition.

Daisy took Geoff and I to Nan Hu on Friday afternoon.  Nan Hu is famous in China for being the site of the signing of the Chinese Communist Manifesto.  The story is that the Party members were secretly meeting in Shanghai in an area known as Xintiandi, when they learned that they were under surveillance.  They immediately disbanded and met at a later date , on South Lake in Jiaxing where all 13 of the original founders, including Mao Zedong, boarded a junk, sailed to the middle of the lake where security was guaranteed, and signed the document.  Thus was the CCP born.  We went through the museum dedicated to this event and only realized afterwards that we could have bought headphones to guide us in English.  As it was, only some of the displays were in English.  We will definitely visit it again and learn much more about this historic event and the chronology of modern Chinese history.

Swimming in South Lake

After the museum, we boarded a junk and sailed to various spots on the lake, carefully avoiding the swimmers (see pictures) who Daisy tells us, are “old people” who are very strong and swim for their health.  They are attached to floats, the purpose of which is to avoid being hit by tourists in junks! (Ed. note:  This may be the safest place in Jiaxing for non- vehicular travel since it was clear that the “captain” of the boat made a premeditated, conscious effort to avoid the swimmers – unlike cars, buses etc. versus pedestrians on land.) We stopped on a beautiful island with elegant walkways and pavilions and then farther down the lake where we explored Wu Temple.  Exiting the park from this end, we found ourselves a few blocks from Hexing Road, one we explore regularly. The three of us boarded our bus, dropped Daisy off at her stop and rode the rest of the way to Jiang Nan Mall.

It was early but we were hungry so headed up to Krabi Thai restaurant for the first time.  What a nice place!  Not many customers at 5:00 pm but the food and ambiance was great.  The menu was in both Chinese and English which allowed us to select our meal without pointing at pictures, also a plus.  Somewhere between the fried mussels (delicious!) and curried ribs, a two-piece rhythm band began playing.  On a bit of  cleared area of the floor appeared the wait-staff in their chef hats and aprons, each holding a spatula or wooden spoon upside down as if it were a microphone.  They launched into a passable version of “Moon River” in English, followed by the Carpenters’ “Close to You.”  The staff were all Filipino – very lovely and friendly.  It was a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and every once in awhile a few kids and adults would  join them in a dance.  We are not sure if this is a regular occurrence or if it only happens when the dining crowd is small,  food is on the table and the staff have a bit of time on their hands, but it was really fun.  We will definitely go back!

(Ed. note: After dinner, I ordered dessert. Baked papaya scooped out and filled with a soupy opaque concoction of some sort. While we both thoroughly enjoyed it,  I erroneously (yeah, right) neglected to tell Terry just what it was until we were home and watching Survivor. Take a look at it with the name from the menu.

Stewed Frog Essence with Papaya

After extensive net research, I have discovered that chicken essence is basically the stew left behind after a whole chicken is boiled using a very high temperature and pressure. As the stew is being formed the proteins and amino acids take on a molecular structure that when taken helps elevate alpha and beta waves of the brain.  These brain waves are indicative of memory and mental alertness, as well as substantially decreasing mental fatigue. So in theory its pretty much like a natural Red Bull, minus the Carcinogens. Chicken, frog – what’s the difference?)

Saturday morning we made a visit to our local pharmacy to buy foot cream (for itchy feet).  The clerk signed that I should put it on my feet but use Q-tips so it didn’t get on our hands!  Hmmm.  Anyway, I have since applied it with no problem, at least not yet.

Headed downtown on the bus but got off along Hongbo Lu, a street with many little shops of all description.  I bought a trenchcoat-like jacket to carry me over to winter for the princely sum of $38.  I am a XXL in China.  Actually, I think I am an XL–it seems to be a bit too big now that I have it home, even though the belt sits about 3″ above my waist.  May try to exchange it later this week.  We made our way on foot to the main drag where after much ado, Geoff bought a cover and screen protector for his phone and we ate some street fries (spicy and delicious) and a type of brittle made with sunflower seeds and nuts, all very good.  (Ed. note: I didn’t even try to get Terry to buy one of these skirts for school…)

But I do think she’d look great in one! They are about 9′ long each.

Home again, relaxing, contemplating going out again for a few groceries as we have to go to work in the morning (Sunday) for Day One of a “Sports Meeting.”  Details to follow once we’ve had the experience.

(Ed note: Terry has been complaining commenting that I sometimes keep her awake at night. Perhaps she should take lessons from these three…)

Sleeping Like Babies (BTW – the guy in the hat is a caucasian guy – Terry thinks perhaps Transgender – don’t know why, perhaps the white nail polish or the hose?)

Finally, for those of you doing home renovations, specifically bathrooms, please be aware that toilet paper rolls here are 4″ wide and toilet roll holders are made to match. Therefore if you buy a holder made in China it may not fit your 4 1/4″ toilet rolls which are the standard in Canada. Hope this helps, Mal.

Fun at school

First, an amendment to the opera story:  two of the things that was very well done were the music and sound effects corresponding to the motions on stage, or vice versa.  For example, when the son snaps his head one way or another, it corresponds perfectly to a clash of symbols (I use the term ‘clash’ advisedly).  All through the fight scenes, the cymbals and other loud-noise-making instruments were perfectly coordinated to the motions of the actors on stage, so perfectly, in fact, that it was impossible to tell who was following the other’s cues.  Brilliant.

Fun this week at school as Geoff is having students research and write about Hallowe’en.  They know nothing about it.  Yesterday, Geoff and I tracked down a few pumpkins at a market to try to find some that might work for Jack-o-lanterns.  I carved one at home and brought it to school.  The kids were fascinated.  They kept filing in to my office to have a look at it, ask questions about how I made it, what we did with them, did we eat them later?  It is going to be great fun having them make their own lanterns at our class party on the 31st.  Meanwhile, our poor janitor remains completely perplexed by this carved pumpkin I have on my desk.  It’s been there two days and each time he picks it up and studies it, then looks at me quizzically.  I say it’s for Hallowe’en but of course he doesn’t have any idea what I’m saying.    Lots of fun!

There’s additional excitement at the school because this Sunday and Monday there is some sort of Sports Day or Track Meet, we’re not entirely sure.  What we do know is that the kids are busy practicing everything from dance routines to class speeches and cheers.  There will be some sporting events but I don’t think those will be the highlights of the day.  We attend both days then get Tuesday off as the kids get to go home Monday afternoon for a night and a day.  They return and we begin Hallowe’en preparations.  How much excitement can one person stand?  It’s going to be great fun with pumpkin carving, spooky bingo, decorations, games, tricks and treats.  I feel like I did when my kids were little and we dressed them up and went out for the first few times.  It will be so interesting to see if the kids actually come up with costumes.

Remember I said it never ceases to amaze?  I saw a classic tonight on the walk home:  scooter; foot well contains 3 large boxes and the legs of the young female driver.  Her mother or mother-in-law is on the back holding a new-born or pretty close to it.  The young woman is driving with one hand as she talks on a cell phone with the other.  What, me worry?  To be fair, she had slowed down.  I’ll let you know when my mouth stops dropping open.

A Night At The Opera* and Opera, My View

This post has two parts -the first is Geoff’s, followed by Terry’s.

A Night At The Opera*

Last night, along with approximately 1500 young adolescents, we were treated to a Night At The Opera*, courtesy of  Jiaxing Senior Secondary School and The Provincial Troupe of Zhejiang. Let me say before I get into my review, that going wasn’t high on my list of things to do – after all, I was 90% through The Last Refuge. Anyway, as the spouse of the Principal, I guess I had a responsibility to attend. When we arrived, Terry was immediately escorted to a seat of honour next to Principal Xu. I was happy to be left near the rear – but then David came back on got me and I too was able to enjoy a seat of honour.

As well as David, there was another teacher of English and between the two of them, they provided us with an interpretation of what was happening in The Lotus Lantern. Briefly: woman god has an affair with mortal and gets pregnant, has baby; evil god brother steals baby and forces mother to return to god world; son is raised by monkey; son gets sad and wants to know who his parents are; father finds him and tells him he is father; son fights and vanquishes bad guys sent by evil brother; mother returns and joins father and son in heartfelt reunion. The end.

Okay, now you know the story. Let me provide some perspective. You have 1500 adolescents – in a crowd of 1500 randomly chosen adults, how many do you think would willingly choose to spend an evening at the opera? Exactly. I do want to say that the 20 students in the BC Offshore program were very well behaved, throughout the 90 minute performance (did I mention that it was 90 minutes long, no intermissions and in a hot gym?). Also, I would estimate that another 75% of the students were respectful and attentive. If they had any difficulty following the singing, (after all, it wasn’t likely it was the sound system Elton John is bringing on Nov. 23 to Shanghai which we are attending), they could always fall back on the Chinese subtitles on the reader boards on either side of the stage (well, the mat on the gym floor).

I would imagine, though, that in looking at Principal Xu, he wasn’t impressed with the number of students who kept getting up and going out to the foyer or the WC. (I do believe that they couldn’t actually exit the building – locked? guards? who knows, but they were all there at the end.) Perhaps he will speak to them later. He really is a good principal and as Terry said, she would have been upset.

Now, about the performance. I admit (grudgingly) that I don’t know much about Chinese opera – or any other opera for that matter, but I don’t think that people are supposed to sing without ungritting their teeth and then going up an octave to boot, which is how I heard it. Go ahead try and sing Mary Had a Little Lamb with your teeth clenched and go up an octave to boot. See?

The supporting musicians were good – I could tell since they (and the speakers) were only 25-30 feet away from me. Also they let me know when it was over when, even before the singers had finished taking their bow, they were packing up to leave.

Despite all of this, I quite enjoyed the evening. I have included a short (2:04) video of part of the performance – come on watch it,  I was there for 90!!

Opera, My View

Geoff failed to mention the best part:  The evil brother sent a dog to steal the baby.  Turns out the dog is one heck of an acrobat!

I had never seen a Chinese opera before and realized quickly that the mannerisms of the male cast are abrupt–a quick snaps of the head to face a different direction indicates concern– sad emotions are conveyed by wiping of pretend tears and downcast shoulders.  Women, by contrast, are fluid and graceful.  All the women in this show were either the goddess (the word for “female god,” Geoff) or maids of the goddess and all were exceptionally graceful and lovely.  I was glad for the interpreter, although after awhile, I was able to fill in most of the details on my own.  Once the fight scenes began, towards the end, they had the kids’ attention–and ours!  Incredible acrobatics by all the soldiers, son and dog.  Many back and forward flips, tricky sword play and footwork by our hero to avoid death by spear!  The dog, by the way, was played by a young man.

The one negative aspect in the production was the singing.  The actors actually change their voices to be high, grating and shrill.  Awful!  This is what drove most kids out of their seats, looking for an escape, I think.  Really appalling and at high volume!  Other than that, ti was a most entertaining evening.  Would I go again?  Let’s just say I’ve checked it off my bucket list.

*With apologies to The Marx Brothers

EXTRA!! EXTRA!!

Just spoke with my “girls” here at Starbucks. The reason they have been training and today are interviewing is that they are opening a SECOND Starbucks in Jiaxing in January. This one has only been here six years. Talk about rapid expansion! Perhaps I will apply for a job……

Some Interesting Photos

If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then I am about to regale you with a VERY long post!! We took the first few photos when we were in Shanghai two weeks ago.

1. I combined three photos into one for comparison’s sake. It was taken before this past weekend’s deluge in Vancouver. This is a digital weather board stretching across a major road in the Pudong area of Shanghai. Pudong is where all the new  architecturally unusually designed buildings are being built. (There might be a career here for you, Little Dick).

Temperatures around the world

2.   I took this photo on a VERY crowded subway car – but clearly no one wanted to stand near the foreigner (ie ME!). This space was the only space of more than a few inches anywhere on the car.

Don’t Stand Near The Foreigner

3. Look closely in the red circle – you can just see the top of Terry’s head as she tries on her new clothes in the “Dressing Room” at the Fabric Market.

Who Needs a Dressing Room

4. Now, many of you may have seen our photos/videos of Nanjing Road and the hoards of people. I “stole” this photo from the blog of a fellow Canadian who is working in Shanghai. It was taken (not by him) of the Great Wall on the same week we were in Shanghai. As he said on his blog, look how far back the line goes. (Thanks Bruce – Bruce and Kim Carabine are also doing a blog on their experiences teaching, principalling and living in Shanghai. Their link is to the right, if you are interested in someone else’s perspective – not that it would be as entertaining as ours, of course. LOL)

The Great Stall of China

5. Doesn’t every free-standing 5 x 7 room need an air conditioner?

Ahhh – We finally got air conditioning, Terry.

Now back to Jiaxing

6. I was telling my sister Judith yesterday about the imported foods shelf at Walmart…

Imported Goods

7. and my brother-in-law Rick about the rice section. What do you think we are eating most of? (poor sentence construction). BTW we have been unable to locate any brown rice as of yet.

PART of the rice section

8. Is this for a powder Prickly Ash or powder from a Prickly Ash? Either way, it is Great Value!

Prickly Ash Powder

9. Doesn’t everyone sell/buy their eggs in the produce section, unrefrigerated?

Eggs? Yes, they’re next to the cauliflower…

10. And finally, a contest with two possible winners. This is the sign for an actual business here in Jiaxing. 1. What kind of business do you think this is? First correct answer gets a prize. 2. The most creative “business” also gets a prize, so get those entries in by midnight (GMT) Friday, October 19, 2012.

The name says it all?????

 (Ed. notes: Re: F@#$ing Finally!! My pal Roger suggested that next time I make a video, I do slower panning (that’s a technical photography term) when doing it. A very good point indeed. No excuses, but I wasn’t sure how the people being “filmed” would react. They seemed to be just fine with it so the next time I will make sure I slow down. I really do appreciate the constructive feedback and look forward to more from all of my fans – as well as the rest of you. Enjoy the bridge games. Also, Terry and I really appreciate the comments – it’s nice to know people are actually reading this. The more comments, the more motivated we are.)

It never gets old

I’ve not written for a week as I have been sick with a cold.  Geoff visited our local pharmacy where the proprietors have a good grasp of sign language and seem well able to meet our needs.  He brought home some “nasal dripping” pills and something else that had some paracetamol and something else in it; suffice to say that after 5 days, I am essentially recovered with only a scratchy throat to get over.

Last night, we took the bus downtown where we discovered Houcaller Steak House.  Well, were we pleasantly surprised!  We both ordered a “set meal” of Brazilian steaks with peppercorn sauce, mashed potatoes and the finishing touch, a fried egg.  Included also was a glass of cold tea, a bland soup, terrible coconut bread and a fruit buffet for dessert, none of which we ate.  The main meal was great!  It was served on an iron hot pan set on a wooden platter, the kind we get in BC when we order fajitas (served by a sixteen year old idiot who kept saying “hello” everytime he passed the table).  We were delighted to have the meal arrive piping hot; we actually had to let it simmer down a bit before we could eat it.  The steak was tender and tasty, the mashed potatoes yummy!  I’m guessing that the egg is simply broken on to the pan after all has been plated.  By the time it arrives at your table, it is perfectly cooked sunny side up.

A meal befitting royalty

Rather strangely, wine was included in some set meals.  A glass of wine.  None of the servers spoke English, so we think what happened when we asked for two glasses was that they divided one glass between us and brought out two very small amounts of wine in each glass.  We ordered a second and got the same treatment again.  The total bill:  Y158 or $26.30.  Such a deal.

Later, I purchased a pair of slacks that had to be taken in at the waist.  We were told that they would be ready by 10:00am the next morning.   Sure enough,  they were ready for pick-up when we arrived today.  Can’t beat that service! We had quite a fun time with the clerks as none of them were fluent in English.  Once the deal was done, they rushed to get their cell phones to take a picture of me with them.  I towered over the little clerk and all of them giggled like crazy.

For breakfast today we ate at a street kiosk–I have already forgotten the name of the food but basically it’s like a fried chappati wrapped around a fried egg and bit of chicken.  It’s pretty darn good and may replace the Saturday black bean scone and latte at Starbuck’s.  We discovered it last week at school when we saw a few of the kids from our classes were wolfing it down for dinner instead of the cafeteria fare; they had bought it from a vendor through the fence.  He sets up shop with a hot cooking surface and makes them to order, hot sauce or not.  Yum yum!  However, it is verboten!  They are not allowed to buy from the vendors, but apparently, neither kids nor vendors know this rule.  We regularly see kids at lunch hour munching on the forbidden snacks and fruit that they buy this way.  I can’t say that I blame them as the food in the caf is bland and boring.  Every day, it is virtually the same.  Add to it that by the time we get there, later than most, it’s also cold.  Not the greatest.

We continue to be endlessly fascinated by the traffic here.  We are less gob-smacked than when we first arrived but it still never ceases to amaze.  Today we rode the bus downtown.  A particularly aggressive driver was at the wheel which means that one has to be prepared for incessant horn honking and treacherous, hair-raising  maneuvers.  For example, approaching an intersection, the driver pulled out into the on-coming lane, passing by 5 or 6 cars, in order to turn left, which he did while the on-coming traffic was entering the intersection.  Honking the horn seems to be the equivalent to saying, “coming through, out of the way.”  Astoundingly, in cars drivers simply lay off the gas, let the bus pass, then move into traffic; scooters brake and scatter.  Seemingly, no one gets annoyed.  After our shopping expedition, we took an electric Tuk Tuk to Auchan, our favorite grocery store.  I was not entirely thrilled to be going that far in a Tuk Tuk but the bus that we were waiting for arrived too full to take on any more passengers and after missing half a dozen cabs, we decided to make the best of it.  It was fun actually.  The good news is that they can’t go very fast and the drivers know their place in the hierarchy of the road:  buses first, cars second, next motorcycles followed by scooters followed by Tuk Tuks, then bicycles then pedestrians.  Pedestrians are always last and better not mess with the order of things.  Our friend Al says, at the crosswalk, look 3 ways, which is too true.  Expect vehicles to enter the road from any direction, sidewalk or space.  It is not in the least bit unusual to see cars driving the wrong way into on-coming traffic or to have cars cross over into the turn lanes and through-lanes as they are making left-hand turns.   It is also not unusual to have a taxi or car pull up into a left-turn only lane but then go straight through, moving over into the right to cut off the through traffic.  In short, it is nothing short of insanity.  How it all works, I think, is because the Chinese do not have the same sense of “the rules of the road” as we do.  They don’t get angry when people move up in the merge lane, “budging” as kids would say.  It’s just the way things are done.  Drivers merge about 80% of the time.  In roads with many lanes of traffic, they just hog the center line and honk, then pull over.  The guy next to them better slow down and give way or he’s going to lose a fender.  Everyone does.  Move, that is.  No one gets mad; there is no sense of road rage, or if there is, it is taken care of by the blaring of horns.  There are only traffic lights and no stop signs in uncontrolled intersections, just horn-honking.

(Ed. note: Now although this comes from Ed., it truly comes out of a conversation with the blogger. We watched this person walk ahead of us today, and the blogger commented that in Canada, this individual would be considered a lady of the evening. To be fair, this one is quite tame. Can anyone out there say 8″ skirts? We then went on to comment that since most young women dress this way,  we don’t really know what such individuals would look like here – perhaps they dress like Terry and that is why she gets so many looks.?!)

My occupation is….

From Auchan, we took a cab home.  Our Chinese must be improving because the driver knew immediately the way to Chun Xiao Yuan.   Tomorrow night we are cooking a belated Thanksgiving dinner for our teachers, Puneet and Wes.  We will be making do as there is no turkey or even a whole chicken, but it will be as close as possible to a Thanksgiving meal.  We do give thanks, for our time here, our new friends and our much-loved family, friends and acquaintances back home.  Thanks for continuing to follow the saga of our Chinese adventure!